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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, An Allegory with Venus and Time

Key facts
Full title An Allegory with Venus and Time
Artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Artist dates 1696 - 1770
Date made about 1754-8
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 292 × 190.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a special grant and a contribution from The Pilgrim Trust, 1969
Inventory number NG6387
Location Room 39
Collection Main Collection
An Allegory with Venus and Time
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

This huge oval-shaped painting, which is about 3 metres long, was commissioned to decorate a ceiling in a palazzo belonging to the Contarini family. The scale of the figures and the sense that they are above us hint at the intended destination: this work was made to be seen from below, and at a great distance.

The imagery suggests it was made to celebrate a new heir. Venus, the goddess of love and fertility, gestures lovingly towards an infant, who is held by a winged figure – a personification of Time, who has here laid aside his scythe. The act symbolises immortality, although the hourglass at his waist suggests the inevitable passing of time. In the clouds above, the Three Graces bless the child by scattering flowers.

Tiepolo’s characteristic loose handling of paint can be seen in Time’s feathery wings, and his delicate colouring in Venus' pale flesh and striking pink drapery, in contrast with Time’s brown skin and brilliant blue loincloth.

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